Amazing Town Ants Arrive in Shreveport

Diorama of town ant colony installed at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

The U.S. Forest Service recently installed a diorama called The Amazing Town Ant” at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum (LSEM) in Shreveport, Louisiana. Researchers and staff from the Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants unit in nearby Pineville worked together to build a mock town ant colony, a complicated structure which includes cavities to raise the young and others to house fungus gardens.

The native town ant  (Atta texana)—also known as the leaf-cutting ant,  cut ant, fungus ant, or parasol ant—was deemed a major forest pest in the 1950s. Expert advice and inspiration for the display came from emeritus research entomologist  John Moser, who began his career in 1958 at the Southern Forest Experiment Station (later SRS) working on methods to eradicate the town ant, and went on to study almost every aspect of the insects biology and behavior including their underground colonies. Read about John Mosers excavation of a medium” town ant colony.            

Cavity in town ant colony containing fungus garden. The basidiomycete fungus the ants grow serves as the major food source for the colony. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Unit staff worked together on the display:

  • Biological science technicians Robby Parpart, Ben Parpart and Steven Walters built the base and substrate for the display;
  • Forestry technicians Chris Young and Erich Vallery provided soil materials;
  • Vallery also took photos and arranged ant collecting at his Aunt Charlenes house; and
  • Biological research technician JoAnne Percy Barrett collected, arranged, and glued 1,000 ants and built and painted the fake tubing for galleries featured in the display.

‘We mentioned to the museum that we would like the exhibit back when they were finished with it,” says Stacy Blomquist, biological technician who coordinated the process. They essentially said ‘no way they were keeping it forever. They were extremely pleased.”

The LSEM is a major attraction in Northwest Louisiana, the state, and the Ark-La-Tex area and has been so since it opened in 1939. Designed to be of interest to people of all ages, the museums murals and exhibits relate the story of Louisianas great natural resources, agriculture, industry and history. Each year more than 42,000 children from area schools visit the museum and take part in tours and interactive programs.

Read more about the content and structure of town ant colonies.

For more information, email Stacy Blomquist at sblomquist@fs.fed.us

Access the latest publications by SRS scientists.

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